Wednesdays with Words – January 29, 2014

I was originally planning on sharing more quotes from “The Rock That is Higher” by Madeleine L’Engle today.  Unfortunately, it had to be returned to the library and I am back on the waiting list so I can finish it.

Those plans thwarted, I decided to share some quotes from “The Mystery of Providence” by John Flavel.  Flavel was one of the Puritans in England during the seventeenth century.  He was barred from preaching in Dartmouth, his original parish, by the Act of Uniformity in 1662.  He moved out of the city and continue to minister to many people, who traveled to the countryside to hear him preach.  He was often in danger but happily lived to see the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which not only required that the monarch be a Protestant but that the “Non-Conformists” have protections as well.

Like many of the other writings by Puritan authors, Flavel’s work is meaty and deep.  A little bit goes a long way and it will take me many months to work through this work.  However, it will be worth the work.  There is so much that is edifying in this little book and I look forward to not only learning more about God’s Providence but also how it works out in my daily life.

“I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” Psalm 57:2

“The word which we translate ‘performeth’ comes from a root that signifies both to perfect, and to desist or cease.  For when a business is performed and perfected, the agent then ceases and desists from working.” p. 17

“Payment is the performance of promises.  Grace makes the promise, and Providence the payment.” p. 18

“[Providence] has its eye upon every thing that relates to them [the saints] throughout their lives, from first to last.  Not only the great and more important, but the most minute and ordinary affairs of our lives are transacted and managed by it.  It touches all things that touch us, whether more nearly or remotely.” p. 19

” ‘Tis true we often prejudge its works, and unjustly censure its designs, and in many of our straits and troubles we say: ‘All these things are against us’; but indeed Providence neither does nor can do any thing that is really against the true interest and good of the saints.  For what are the works of Providence but the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of His Word? And there can be no more in Providence than is in them.  Now there is nothing but good to the saints in God’s purposes and promises; and therefore, whatever Providence does concerning them, it must be (as the text speaks) ‘the performance of all things for them.'” p. 19

“All the dark, intricate, puzzling providences at which we were sometimes so offended, and sometimes amazed, which we could neither reconcile with the promise nor with each other, nay, which we so unjustly censured and bitterly bewailed, as if they had fallen out quite against our happiness, we shall then see to be to us, as the difficult passage through the wilderness was to Israel, ‘the right way to a city of habitation’ (Ps 107:7)” p. 22

“It is certainly a highway of walking with God in this world, and a soul may enjoy as sweet communion with Him in His providences as in any of His ordinances.” p. 22

As you can see, this is deep stuff and plenty to ponder over the next week.

May you seek to contemplate the Lord’s Providence today, as you meet each and every circumstance, knowing that His will for you is for your good and for His glory.

Living in a state of rest

Over the last several years, I have heard Andrew Kern speak about teaching from a state of rest.  Thoughts of teaching from a state of rest naturally led to thinking about how to live all of my life from a state of rest.  Recently rest has been hard to find with school and work and family needs as well as all of those little crises and mishaps that occur in our fallen, broken lives.  Even when I was able to get a full night’s sleep and a break from the relentless “to-do” list, I found myself still restless in spirit, if not in body.

The Lord promises us rest in the book of Hebrews:  “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” 4:9-10

And Christ Himself promises rest for the weary in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

So if we are promised rest by the Lord and He never fails to keep His promises, why was I feeling so restless and weary and overwhelmed?  I kept thinking that if just did X or accomplished Y or got through this week, things would be better, but the weariness remained and the rest remained elusive.  Then last week, as I was commenting on a friend’s blog about rest being a mindset rather than enforced idleness, it hit me:  rest is a way of viewing the world, a reliance on God’s strength and wisdom and power rather than my own, a trust in His perfect providence in my day to day life, a giving up of my own agenda, strength, and gifts and placing my hope entirely in the Lord’s work accomplished on my behalf in Christ.

Like Martha, I have been encumbered by many things and was forgetting that while working for the Lord and doing the work He has planned for me before the foundation of the world is good, doing it without first sitting at His feet as Mary did and hearing His voice and gaining strength and wisdom and power from Him, is not good.

However, I knew that it didn’t mean making sure that I checked off the quiet time box each morning but that I instead needed to set my mind on resting in Him every moment, every time I wanted to throw up my hands and run away, every time a wrench in my day threw the whole thing off, every time a child was sick or grumpy or didn’t understand that math problem, every time the snowy roads caused a cancellation, every time a doctor’s visit went too long, every time I wanted to just sit down and cry.

In every one of those moments, Jesus was saying to me, “Do you trust me to solve this?  Do you really believe that I have already worked out how to deal with this?  Can you let go of your own strength and determination to get X done and let me have My way in your life for your good and My glory?  Do you have faith that I am your Good Shepherd and that you lack nothing?”

As the light of this truth (one I should have already known from many years of Him patiently teaching me this) was dawning this past week, I went to church on Sunday and during the sermon, our pastor read the words from one of my very favorite hymns:  “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”.  There was the answer, staring me in the face.  It is in His love that I find rest.  It is in His love that I find peace.  It is in His love that I find the heaven on earth of His presence with me.  His love is a current underneath, all around me; it never changes; it is an ocean vast of blessing; it is a haven sweet of rest.   A haven sweet of rest–that rest that had been eluding me so long.  The tears stood in my eyes as I felt that love encompassing me, lifting me up and carrying my burdens away.

Resting in the love of Christ.  What a blessing.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

The joy of the Lord is my strength

This morning as I was driving to church, I was listening to this song based on Nehemiah 8:10:

“Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
And I will not waiver, walking by faith
He will be strong to deliver me safe
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength

–Twila Paris

No matter what is occurring in our lives, whether the circumstances are good or difficult, whether there is sorrow or joy, pain or health, weakness or wholeness, the Lord Himself is our Joy and our Strength in the midst of every minute of each day.  That is something for which we can praise Him and be thankful.


I was reading an article on Barnacles and liberal education and how education can help us stop being barnacles by opening up our lives to new thoughts, new ideas, new ways of living rather than just sticking to our comfortable rocks and not growing.  I was especially struck by this quote:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.

However, it’s not just a liberal education that can lead to growth and building meaning into our lives.  How many times have I clung to my comfortable rock of sin and had the Lord gently pry me loose so that I could live more fully and freely in obedience to Him?  How many times have I wanted to hide from being known and had a friend pry me loose and convince me to trust and be vulnerable so that I could have deeper fellowship?  How many times have I wanted to cling to my own idea of  the world and had a book, or more often, God’s Word open my eyes to my ignorance so that my life was enriched and new horizons beckoned?  The Lord Himself, the relationships He has allowed in my life, the books He brings across my path and other things as well pry me out of my comfort zone, give rich meaning to my life, open my world to great and glorious visions, and fill my days with laughter, goodness, beauty, and truth.  How thankful I am for learning to swim rather than to stay a barnacle.

Wednesdays with Words – Week 2

I have been slowly reading and savoring Susan Hill’s “The Magic Apple Tree” over the last month.  Her prose is delicious and in my mind’s eye,  I can see her home and the Fens and the lovely gardens and fields and trees she describes her book.  Here are just a few of my favorite quotes:

“The open fire is different, we have that not so much when we need it as when we can spend an evening sitting beside it, enjoying the smell and the sight of its burning, staring into it, poking and probing and rearranging it, for a wood fire is an activity, not an object to be admired passively.” 

“…one of the richest pleasures of domestic life is, and has always been, filling the house with the smells of food, of baking bread and cakes, bubbling casseroles and simmering soups, of vegetables fresh from the garden and quickly steamed, of the roasting of meat, of new-ground coffee and pounded spices and chopped herbs, of hot marmalade and jam and jelly.”

“There is a smell to every season, and smoke outdoors is the smell of November.”

“It is a small wood, as all the best ones are, for small, in woodland terms, is friendly and safe.”

“I like to see flowers growing in the way old-fashioned country gardeners always had them, in rows among the vegetables, with the sweet peas up behind the potatoes.”

“Old roses have character, and romance lingering in their pasts.  They are like faded old beauties of Victorian and Edwardian country houses.  I love their names and their rarity and the way they are ever so slightly blousy, and yet paper-frail, too.”

What a lovely book.  Between this book and her “Howard’s End is on the Landing”, I have found an author who is also a kindred spirit.  I have not read any of her other books, not even her mysteries, and have all of those to look forward to in the future.  

“Something Like Perfection”

“In living, and moving and having something of our being in a home culture, even with its all-too-human fuss and bother, if we but smuggle in something of the simple cargo-sturdy, comfortable furniture, fresh food, home cooked meals, good wine, one set of fine china for special meals, paintings and ancestral portraits on the wall, an old upright piano, acoustic guitar, any non-electric instrument, a time set apart to read aloud before prayers and bedtime-if we but make a welcome hearth for the songs of the Muses, we too will know that even on this earth, now and again, a courage will visit among us in those comforting, beautiful reflections of the permanent things, quite surprising yet strangely familiar for us who are passing to and fro in these playful shadows, and we will begin to see as Odysseus recognized, “something very much like perfection.” — James  S. Taylor

from his article, “Something Like Perfection”  

Wednesdays with Words

I’m currently reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth”. I don’t always agree with all that she writes, but so much of what she writes resonates strongly with me, even if I decide that I don’t agree with her in the end. And she is so quotable:

“One of the results of the Fall is that we have forgotten who we are, and so have forgotten how to be.  Learning to be hurts.  We can sing songs of happiness without knowing pain.  But we can sing the joy of our creation and honor our Creator only from within the fire.” p. 40

This is so true.  It is easy to “do” and so, so difficult to “be” and it was when I walked through the “fire” of temptation and pain and suffering that I met the Lord in a new, close way that I doubt would have occurred if I hadn’t needed Him so desperately.

“Eating has always been important to me, because the focal point of the day is the dinner table, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.  The dinner hour is a sacramental time for me, a time of gratitude for whoever is gathered around the table, for the food, for our being part of the great story of Creation.  We share the day’s events, tell stories, look up words in dictionaries, linger long after the meal is over while the candles burn down.” p. 56


“We are not meant to be plaster saints who are never frightened or angry.  These are human emotions and few people can avoid them.  However we are not meant to be stuck in them, but to turn to God, and move on.  When I am angry with someone I know, to my rue, that there have been many times when I, too, have been less than I ought to be, when I have not honored God’s image within me.  This understanding alone should be enough to keep us from hanging onto grudges” pp. 76-77

I love her wisdom here.

And one last quote for now:

“The storyteller is a storyteller because the storyteller cares about truth, searching for truth, expressing truth, sharing truth.” p. 103

I am loving reading Madeleine L’Engle’s thoughts on writing, God, love, friendship, story, and ultimately life itself.  I am reading this very slowly and thinking about it and rereading bits.  It’s been well worth my time and effort.

Two new books for Christmas

Last night I received a belated Christmas present of two new books by Susanna Kearsley:

Mariana  and The Firebird.  I had read a couple of her books last spring.  After I heard her speak at our local library, I really wanted to read more but couldn’t justify borrowing any more books from the library since I had 50+ out already.  Now I have my own copies to read whenever I wish.

What a perfect present for a book lover.